Revolution Offshore, Capitalism Onshore: Ships and the Changing Relationship between China and the World

About the talk

This talk tells a backstory of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by tracing the voyages of three Chinese ships managed by the China Ocean Shipping Bureau—both as mobile vessels at sea and as permanent presence on land. People’s Republic of China (PRC) ships functioned as a distinctive type of state space in international waters, remotely serving but temporarily disconnected from the PRC state. When mobile at the sea, these ships functioned as vessels not only for passengers and commodities but also for the Maoist ideology; upon their arrivals in foreign ports, the ships became floating venues for public diplomacy. The retirement of Minghua—a cruiser turned one-stop entertainment centre in Shenzhen—coincided with the beginning of China’s Reform and Opening. Having become part of the city landscape, the ship was turned into a dynamic experiment field for the market economy and a medium through which ideas travel and identities shift.

About the speaker

Taomo Zhou is an Assistant Professor of History at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Her writings have appeared in publications such as The Journal of Asian Studies, Diplomatic History, The China Quarterly, The Critical Asian Studies, the journal Indonesia, and the Made in China Journal. Taomo’s first book, Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia and the Cold War (Cornell University Press, 2019), is a Foreign Affairs ‘Best Books of 2020’ and has received an Honorable Mention for the Harry J. Benda Prize from the Association of Asian Studies. Taomo is working on a new research project on Shenzhen—the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) of China—and its connections with the Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and free ports across Southeast Asia.

More information about the event can be found here.

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